“CRISIS? What crisis?” were the famous words never quite uttered by the then beleaguered Prime Minister James Callaghan in 1979.

Nevertheless, the newspaper headline described the attributed mood of the Labour Government towards the industrial strife that afflicted the country during the Winter of Discontent, resulting in the sun setting on Sunny Jim’s time in office.

Some 21 years later saw the only real wobble in the Blair Government’s first term when, for days HGV drivers, angry at the rise in petrol duty, blockaded refineries, which resulted in fuel shortages at the pumps. The row was resolved in part by a freeze on fuel duties.

Another 21 years on and, while the causes of the crisis are different, much of the UK has been witnessing snaking queues of vehicles at petrol stations with even fights breaking out on the forecourts because of - fuel shortages at the pumps.

Whitehall insiders have lovingly branded it the “EFFing crisis,” as it covers energy, fuel and food.

Kit Malthouse, the UK Government minister, pressed on who was to blame for the current dearth of fuel across parts of the country, said: “Does it have to be somebody’s fault?” Er, yes minister.

For some time, the Conservative administration has known of the hauliers’ shortage - now put at 100,000 - but has clearly not done enough to address it.

Brexit and the resultant departure of foreign drivers for better pay elsewhere coupled with the pandemic have been contributory factors.

However, it looks desperate when the Government scrambles around, appealing to former home-based lorry drivers to return to the road and offering visas to 5,000 foreign drivers. It is hard to imagine many will take up either offer even though ministers have now extended the visas from December to February.

In Germany, the would-be new Chancellor, the SPD’s Olaf Scholz, suggested Brexit was to blame for Britain’s “problems” with its shortage of lorry drivers.

Last week, Peter Tiede, a writer with Bild newspaper, summed up German glee at our misfortune.

“No lorry drivers! No fuel! Empty supermarket shelves! Ministers dependent on the army or prisoners to help! What’s happened to you? Have you been in a war? Are the French on strike and paralysing your island? Whatever the reason, thanks for making us feel better.

“Every time we see long queues at your petrol stations on TV, we experience a delicious schadenfreude. Germany cannot help but grin at your troubles.”

On Friday, Micheal Martin, the Taoiseach, also insisted Brexit had “exacerbated the situation in the UK” regards HGV drivers and boasted Ireland did not share the problem because “we’re part of the European single market, the free movement of people and so on”.

But Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, dismissed more business appeals for immigration rules to be eased.

Turkeys will be imported from Poland and France in time for Christmas after UK farmers reared 1m fewer birds. The British Poultry Council complained Brexit had cut off the industry's supply of cheap labour.

However, Kwarteng stressed voters had decisively rejected the “low-wage, high-immigration model” when they voted for Brexit; the economy, he argued, was now in a “transition period”.

Dominic Raab, the Deputy PM, popped up to even suggest getting prison inmates to drive lorries and fill some of the gaps in worker shortages.

On Friday, Keir Starmer, fresh from the Labour conference, tried to seize the political initiative by calling for the PM to take “emergency action” to prevent the problems hitting the fuel industry spreading to other sectors.

“I don’t want people in this country to have another Christmas ruined by this Prime Minister’s lack of planning,” he declared.

Starmer even suggested - on the eve of the Tory conference - a recall of Westminster; which won’t happen as it would make Boris look a complete chump.

Yesterday, UK ministers announced the mobilisation of the military in Operation Escalin, which from tomorrow will see 100 Army drivers delivering fuel to forecourts to “keep the country on the move”.

They insisted things were “stabilising” but the Petrol Retailers Association, representing most filling stations, said while supplies were improving in Scotland, Wales and northern England, they were getting worse in southern England.

But, of course as the nights draw in, our PM is battling not just one crisis but a sea of troubles.

There is a health crisis due to Covid and its consequent waiting-list backlog.

There is a cost of living crisis with inflation up, petrol prices at an eight-year high, electricity and gas bills rising, the end of the Universal Credit uplift arriving next week and in the spring new tax hikes will take effect.

Post-Brexit, relations with the EU and, in particular, France, are slipping towards crisis while in Northern Ireland any withdrawal of DUP ministers from Stormont over the contentious protocol would plunge the province into a constitutional crisis.

In a few weeks’ time world leaders will converge on Glasgow to try to solve the biggest crisis of them all: the climate emergency.

And, if all that were not enough, the Scottish Nationalists are poised to ratchet up the tempo in their Indyref2 campaign.

Today, at the pro-Union jamboree that is the Scottish Conservative conference fringe and Boris’s tub-thumping oratory at Scots Night later, it will be interesting to see how often Indyref2 is mentioned given UK ministers have been quietly ordered not to mention the i-word lest it fuel Queen Nicola’s drive towards a second referendum.

Delegates in Manchester will see slogans “build back better” and “getting on with the job” plastered around the conference venue as their leader urges his party and the country to pull together as a team; on Wednesday, he will deliver his keynote speech literally surrounded by ministers and members.

As the country faces not only a winter of discontent but also an autumn of anxiety, the PM should be worried he might emerge from this season of misfeatures badly, perhaps fatally, damaged in political terms. It’s past time for Boris to prenez un grip.